* Land O'Lakes unit to pay $25 million
* Alleged conspiracy to drive up egg prices
* Several defendants remain in case
NEW YORK, June 8 Land O'Lakes Inc has agreed to
pay $25 million to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing it of
conspiring with farmers to fix egg prices.
The lawsuit accused several major egg producers of
violating the Sherman Antitrust Act by conspiring with several
trade associations to reduce egg output and thus drive prices
of shell eggs and egg products higher.
According to the proposed settlement, filed Friday with the
federal court in Philadelphia, Land O'Lakes unit Moark LLC will
pay the $25 million, a sum equal to nearly 28 percent of profit
in its egg division over the last six years. The accord also
settles claims against Norco Ranch Inc, a unit of Moark.
The settlement covers all people and businesses who bought
shell eggs and egg products since 2000, court records show.
Land O'Lakes bought Moark in 2005.
A Land O'Lakes spokeswoman said the settlement avoids the
cost and distraction of protracted litigation.
In 2009, the Arden Hills, Minnesota-based cooperative
posted a profit of $209.1 million on net sales of $10.41
billion, according to its annual report.
The settlement requires court approval. Several defendants
remain in the 18-month-old case, including Cal Maine Foods Inc
(CALM.O), Michael Foods Inc and Rose Acre Farms Inc.
According to the United Egg Producers Inc, one of the
defendants, the United States produces about 80 billion eggs a
year, based on March production data. Per capita U.S.
consumption is 246 eggs a year, the trade group said.
The case is In re: Processed Egg Products Antitrust
Litigation, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of
Pennsylvania, No. 08-md-02002.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Additional reporting by Bob
Burgdorfer in Chicago; editing by John Wallace)